Coming soon: major interface and branding improvements

Today, we’re giving you a heads up about some major improvements coming soon to the LightCMS interface. We believe you are going to love these changes, so we’re excited to tell you about them. But first, a disclaimer:

These plans are not 100% finalized

Since these changes will impact what your clients see when they log into their websites, we want to give you as much lead time as possible to prepare. As a result, we’re telling you about these improvements while things are still being finalized, so I just want to make a general disclaimer that the specifics of what we say here could change somewhat as we near the launch. There may be some differences between the screen shots we display here and what actually ends up in the final interface. And, while we do feel confident about the specific features mentioned below, there is always a possibility that some things could get delayed or changed. It’s also possible that we’ll add even more features!

We’ll be following up with more communication as we near the time of launch to fill you in on how things are progressing. But now, on to the details.

No more admin templates

Perhaps the most significant change we’re implementing is that we’re moving away from utilizing custom admin templates for admin screens. Currently, LightCMS utilizes a template from the design of your website when displaying admin controls such as the WYSIWYG editor or other settings screens. You are able to customize this template currently by providing an admin.html file with your design that the system will use in these admin screens. Once the changes go into effect, LightCMS will no longer use the admin.html template. Instead, it will use its own admin layouts to display all admin content. As a result, it will no longer be necessary to include an admin.html template in your designs.

Why are we moving away from custom admin templates?

There are many reasons we are making this change. I have outlined a few of them below.

  1. Avoiding conflicts. The use of a custom template on admin screens leaves open the possibility for conflicts between your custom admin designs and our system admin controls. Though we have worked to harden our admin layouts to protect against conflicts with custom designs, there is no way to completely avoid situations in which custom designs don’t work right with the admin layout. Moving to system layouts on these screens will eliminate these potential conflicts.
  2. Setting up for much better user interfaces. Currently, the user interfaces on our admin screens are intentionally very barebones in order to avoid, as much as possible, the conflicts mentioned above. By moving these screens into system layouts, we will then be able to move forward with huge improvements to the design and usability of these screens. This will benefit you and your clients greatly as the system controls will become more polished and accessible.
  3. Making things consistent. Currently, some of the admin interfaces exist on system screens while others exist on custom admin templates. This is a confusing inconsistency that we are moving to correct. After this launch, all admin interfaces on the system will have a consistent look and feel.
  4. Removing design hassles. LightCMS has a primary goal of remaining the friendliest and most hassle-free CMS for designers. Requiring designers to create an admin template for every website is an extra hassle that really doesn't offer you much benefit. With this change, we'll be providing the admin layouts so you don't have to, saving you time on every design. Creating sites for LightCMS is about to become even easier!

As you can see, this change to a unified system layout for admin screens will greatly improve the user experience for you and your clients when using LightCMS. Additionally, it will allow us to continue development on further improvements to the interface in the future.

Your brand is our priority

You can rest assured that throughout these changes, we have kept your ability to private-label the system with your brand at the heart of our decisions. The new admin interfaces your clients experience will be neutral in their designs and free of any LightCMS branding (see image). This will be consistent with every other part of the LightCMS system.

WYSIWYG_admin

But we’re not stopping there. We’re also rolling out some major improvements to the admin toolbar and your ability to customize that toolbar to match your own brand. Read on to see what else we have in store with these updates.

Redesigned admin toolbar with full color customization

We’re redesigning the top admin toolbar that you see when you are logged into a LightCMS website.  You can read more about the new admin bar below, but first I want to introduce a new level of private-label branding that will be immediately available.

Customize the color scheme of your admin bar

Currently, you can upload your own logo to appear on the admin bar for your clients. In this new release, we’ll be adding the ability for you to customize all of the colors of the admin bar as well. This will allow you to tightly integrate the admin bar with your logo for a completely branded look.

These customizations will be available through a screen in your account area where you can set all of the admin bar colors and even view a preview of your admin bar before taking it live. We’ll be making this preview screen available to you ahead of our launch date so that you’ll be able to set up your new admin bar before we take these changes live to your clients. We’ll have a fairly small window of time for this advanced customization, though, so you’ll want to be watching our blog and Twitter feeds over the next few weeks for details on when that is available.

Quicker access to all our tools

The new admin bar removes the drop-down-style menus used currently in favor of simple buttons that let you access the controls you need. The admin bar will contain the same controls and option that exist currently, but the layout and look of these buttons will change. See the image below for an idea of what the new admin bar will look like. Remember, the colors will all be customizable by you.

Toolbar

Easily view and change your page templates

One added feature of the new admin bar will be a handy tool that allows you to more easily see what template the page you are viewing is using. Clicking the “You are currently viewing” area will display the design template information and provide a quick link to change the page’s template. Here’s a shot of what that may look like.

Template

Stay tuned for future updates

As mentioned above, things are still being finalized and we don’t have a solid launch date at this time. We’re giving you this heads up so that you can start preparing yourself and your own clients for what is coming. At this point, it looks like the launch will be no earlier than the week of June 1st, 2010, so that gives you about three weeks to prepare for this transition. Of course, the launch may end up being a little later than that giving you even more time. Be sure to stay tuned to our blog and Twitter feed for more details as the time approaches.

As always, thank you for your support and your business. We are constantly hard at work at updating and improving the LightCMS system. We look forward to bringing you these updates and many more in the months to come.

14 comments (Add your own)

1. Maria wrote:
I'm starting a new project for a client and I was thinking of using LightCMS. This would be my first entry into using it. We're still in the beginning contracting phases. Do you think with these future changes, I should plan on waiting for their launch before integrating my site into LightCMS? It might end up that way anyway, but in case I end up ahead of schedule, I figured I'd ask your thoughts.

Thu, May 13, 2010 @ 10:29 AM

2. Tim Wall wrote:
Maria,

Great to have you on board! I don't see any reason you would need to wait on these changes to integrate your site. These changes won't have any impact on the public facing website. The only changes will be for you and your client when you log in to edit content on the site, and even then, the functionality will all be exactly the same, things will just look a little different.

The only thing to keep in mind is that if you integrate before we implement the changes, you'll need to go ahead and create the admin.html template with your design and if you aren't integrating until after the changes are live, you won't have to create the admin.html. Otherwise, everything will work the same.

I'd encourage you to move forward. If you have any questions or issues in the process, our support team is ready to help at answers@speaklight.com

Thanks again,
Tim

Thu, May 13, 2010 @ 10:37 AM

3. Maria wrote:
Awesome Tim, thanks!

I've been following you guys (and EF) for a while and am excited at the opportunity to finally be able to jump in and become more than a sideline fan.

Happy Day,
Maria

Thu, May 13, 2010 @ 11:23 AM

4. Chris Anderson wrote:
Tim,

I appreciate the constant improvements you are making to LightCMS. I am a bit disappointed by the loss of custom Admin Templates, but I understand your reasoning.

Will the customization of the Admin tool be on a per site basis, or only a single customization per my account? I appreciate the personalized branding for my own company, but I am much more interested in my clients feeling like they have not left their website. That is one of the biggest selling points of LightCMS for me (Of course there are many, but this one is huge!). Almost every other CMS requires you to leave your website and log into some Admin Tool, and that feels like a whole other thing to learn. I've worked with clients on several other CMSs and they often just get intimidated and give up. The beauty of LightCMS is that it feels like they never left their own site -- and the comfort that gives is enormous.

That's my feedback, for whatever it's worth.

Thanks for all your hard work making a great product!
chris

Thu, May 13, 2010 @ 11:34 AM

5. Brittney wrote:
Fantastic improvements, LightCMS team! You're always raising the bar... keep up the great work!

Thu, May 13, 2010 @ 11:39 AM

6. Ant Hodges wrote:
All these things are great... But is playingwith the design and user interface really needed when other things such as full dev accounts (not just 3 pages) and multiple currency for payment plans would be so much better in terms of Dev time from EF. This will enable the whole system to grow bigger than a US base and give designers the freedom to get sites done at thier pace rather than rush as they are paying for the account to build a full site before client sign off, and more so, before any money normally comes in. Just my opinion.

Thu, May 13, 2010 @ 12:31 PM

7. Tim Wall wrote:
Chris,

Great feedback. Thank you. Just to clarify, I don't think these changes will change the fact that the user will still feel as though they are logging into and editing their site, rather than a separate admin interface. The login screen (accessed by /login) will use the default template of your design (currently, it uses the admin template, but this will change). Therefore, the user will login on a template that is a part of the website design and then immediately be presented with the same, familiar interface of a toolbar up top and the actual website below with control bars overlaid on the actual website content.

The only time the new admin screens come into effect is when the user chooses to edit a piece of content or manage settings ... etc. While I do see the point that there is some loss of the feeling of being "on their site" I don't feel like it is a total loss, and the upside benefits are much greater for us to move this direction.

To answer your direct question, the toolbar customization is on a per account basis - designed to let you establish a brand for your company.

Thanks again for the feedback.

Tim

Thu, May 13, 2010 @ 1:19 PM

8. Tim Wall wrote:
@Brittney - thanks for the kind words!

@Ant - those are some worthy feature recommendations and we will continue to consider them for future updates. But we have to make decisions on what features to include and where to put our development time based on a wide range of considerations including the feedback we receive from all our customers and a host of other factors as well. We do feel this update is critical to the long term success and growth of the product. This update in particular opens the door to a lot of possibilities that we couldn't consider if we didn't make this change. It not only makes some great improvements now but lays the groundwork for more great things to come. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and we will definitely keep them in mind.

Thu, May 13, 2010 @ 1:26 PM

9. David Garrison wrote:
Wow, I am always impressed with your efforts to elevate. Well done, guys. Thanks for making me look so good.

I have struggled with the admin templates. I LOVE this new concept.

Thu, May 13, 2010 @ 11:28 PM

10. Tim Wall wrote:
David - thanks for the kind words. Glad you like it!

Fri, May 14, 2010 @ 8:40 AM

11. David Chapman wrote:
Hey Tim, I'm pretty excited about the changes that will allow my brand to extend beyond a logo in the header. I might need to take a new look at some of my plans for integrating/design process for new sites after the change. Usually, I have a sub navigation in a template that I wouldn't want to be used to replace the admin template that currently only has a large region for content (1 column instead of 2). I'm excited to see how it works.

The last few updates lately have been great! Especially (although rather small to some) the copy/paste as plain html! Can't wait to see this in action too!

Good work.

Mon, May 17, 2010 @ 12:23 PM

12. Tim Wall wrote:
David C.,

Thanks for the feedback and the kind words. If your concern is about using the default template on the login screen, I understand that. It's possible we will be able to add a "login template" option to the system to allow you to fully customize that login screen with its own template. I'm not 100% sure on that but it's something we're considering. Of course, another option is for you to use the login element or the login status token to make your own login pages and make them look exactly how you want.

Thanks again,
Tim

Mon, May 17, 2010 @ 12:29 PM

13. Michael Thomas wrote:
Tim,

Could you elaborate on some of the things that are not possible if this change is not made? I understand you are saying you'll be able to do more and have more freedom with this type of change, could you give a/some examples of this?

Thanks!

Wed, May 19, 2010 @ 2:12 PM

14. Colin Rowley wrote:
Tim,

Great news. A nice barrier to entry has just been removed.

Tue, June 22, 2010 @ 3:58 PM

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